When he paid £138 million for Aberconway House in Mayfair last week, Adar Poonawalla joined a growing list of Indian billionaires with trophy assets in central London.
He is now within a bicycle rickshaw ride of fellow Indian billionaire Ravi Ruia, who paid £113 million for Hanover Lodge in Regent’s Park earlier this year, and GP Hinduja’s redevelopment of the 1,100-room Old War Office in Whitehall, for which he paid £350 million in 2016 and has transformed into a world-class hotel and apartments.
Ownership of ultra-prestigious London real estate goes in waves. In the late 20th century, the Middle Eastern Sheikhs made their nests in Mayfair. In the early 20th century, it was the turn of the Russian oligarchs. Adar Poonawalla’s purchase brings the number of Indian billionaires with a London pad to at least a dozen, including Lakshmi Mittal and Sri Prakash Lohia, each with top-of-the-scale mansions.
After concentrating their property investments at home during the pandemic, Indian High Net Worth Individuals have returned to global markets, with the UK as the most popular destination, followed by the UAE and the United States. Some buy for a second home, others as a route to citizenship, others to educate their children.
Adar Poonawalla is flush with Serum Institute of India’s successful drug revenue: it manufactured India’s most important pandemic vaccine Covidshield. Started by his father Cyrus in 1966, Serum Institute pioneered vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and measles, saving tens of millions of lives. Adar took over management in 2011 and rented Aberconway House in 2021, finally deciding to buy it outright from wealthy Polish heiress Dominika Kulczyk this December.
I predict that 2024 will see a further influx of Indian wealth into the British capital, as more prime London real estate comes up for sale. If anyone really wants to make a splash, they should buy The Holme – the extraordinary Regent’s Park mansion which resembles The White House in Washington DC – currently on sale for £250 million.
It’s been on the market since last February, so you could probably knock a few million off the asking price. But with 40 bedrooms, eight garages, a tennis court, sauna, whirlpool, grand dining room and library, besides the ornamental lake and four-acre gardens, it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to maintain.
Dinesh Dhamija founded, built and sold online travel agency ebookers, before serving as a Member of the European Parliament. His latest book, The Indian Century, will be out soon.